Contact pair dynamics during folding of two small proteins: chicken villin head piece and the Alzheimer protein β-amyloid

Mukherjee, Arnab ; Bagchi, Biman (2004) Contact pair dynamics during folding of two small proteins: chicken villin head piece and the Alzheimer protein β-amyloid Journal of Chemical Physics, 120 (3). pp. 1602-1612. ISSN 0021-9606

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The folding of an extended protein to its unique native state requires establishment of specific, predetermined, often distant, contacts between amino acid residue pairs. The dynamics of contact pair formation between various hydrophobic residues during folding of two different small proteins, the chicken villin head piece (HP-36) and the Alzheimer protein β-amyloid (βA-40), are investigated by Brownian dynamics (BD) simulations. These two proteins represent two very different classes-HP-36 being globular while βA-40 is nonglobular, stringlike. Hydropathy scale and nonlocal helix propensity of amino acids are used to model the complex interaction potential among the various amino acid residues. The minimalistic model we use here employs a connected backbone chain of atoms of equal size while an amino acid is attached to each backbone atom as an additional atom of differing sizes and interaction parameters, determined by the characteristics of each amino acid. Even for such simple models, we find that the low-energy structures obtained by BD simulations of both the model proteins mimic the native state of the real protein rather well, with a best root-mean-square deviation of 4.5 Å for HP-36. For βA-40 (where a single well-defined structure is not available), the simulated structures resemble the reported ensemble rather well, with the well-known β-bend correctly reproduced. We introduce and calculate a contact pair distance time correlation function, CijP(t), to quantify the dynamical evolution of the pair contact formation between the amino acid residue pairs i and j. The contact pair time correlation function exhibits multistage dynamics, including a two stage fast collapse, followed by a slow (microsecond long) late stage dynamics for several specific pairs. The slow late stage dynamics is in accordance with the findings of Sali et al. [A. Sali, E. Shakhnovich, and M. Karplus, Nature 369, 248 (1994)]. Analysis of the individual trajectories shows that the slow decay is due to the attempt of the protein to form energetically more favorable pair contacts to replace the less favorable ones. This late stage contact formation is a highly cooperative process, involving participation of several pairs and thus entropically unfavorable and expected to face a large free energy barrier. This is because any new pair contact formation among hydrophobic pairs will require breaking of several contacts, before the favorable ones can be formed. This aspect of protein folding dynamics is similar to relaxation in glassy liquids, where also a relaxation requires highly cooperative process of hopping. The present analysis suggests that waiting time for the necessary pair contact formation may obey the Poissonian distribution. We also study the dynamics of Forster energy transfer during folding between two tagged amino acid pairs. This dynamics can be studied by fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET). It is found that suitably placed donor-acceptor pairs can capture the slow dynamics during folding. The dynamics probed by FRET is predicted to be nonexponential.

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Deposited On:13 Oct 2010 06:49
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